A Snapshot of Industrial Design's Bright Future

15 student projects from University of Illinois at Chicago School of Design

Every year, we look forward to seeing students from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Design launch Kickstarter campaigns as the final project for their Entrepreneurial Product Development class. For most, it’s their first experience with designing and offering an original product, and we love seeing Kickstarter used as part of this learning process. This year, UIC Professor Ted Burdett is leading the class. As the co-owner of Strand Design, he has created many products of his own, including the Kickstarter-funded Fourneau Bread Oven. Here, he shares a bit of the philosophy behind the class and introduces his students’ work.

When you graduate from design school, you often wind up working for an agency or as an in-house designer at a company. But I’ve noticed that a lot of my students dream of being independent — starting a studio, making things for a living, or pursuing a venture based on a social or environmental mission. Most don’t take that road and it is no mystery why; they’re saddled with debt, have limited experience, and are short on resources. Yet, In many ways there’s no better time to pursue independent creativity than when you’re full of youthful energy, bountiful creativity and optimism, and haven’t got a whole lot to lose.

Blazing an independent path is far more feasible now for young designers than it was in the past, given the abundance of digital platforms that facilitate community building, prototyping, manufacturing, marketing, and selling. When I think about these new possibilities, paired with my students’ desire to make a positive impact on the world, I see a very bright future.

We created the year-long Entrepreneurial Product Development (EPD) course at UIC to give students the chance to try out entrepreneurship firsthand, within the confines of school, and at a small scale. We help them learn a user-centered approach that embraces validation through prototyping and iteration. Through developing a self-directed project, running a Kickstarter campaign, and coordinating production, students are better equipped to decide whether they want to pursue an independent practice when they graduate.

And that is where we are now: the beginning of our Spring semester marks the launch of our Kickstarter campaigns! You can check them all out below — please share your feedback and help spread the word.

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Welcoming Kickstarter Fellow Fabrice Nadjari

Today, I’m happy to announce the appointment of Fabrice Nadjari as our newest Kickstarter Fellow.

Originally from Paris, Fabrice trained as an engineer and a sociologist, specializing in innovation. He then pursued a globe-spanning career as an independent creator and entrepreneur — with his work taking him to places like Bolivia, Bhutan, and the Central African Republic. In 2011, he and a childhood friend set off for Afghanistan, where they shot a photography project documenting the lives of a nomadic tribe in the country’s remote Wakhan corridor. The work caught the attention of the United Nations, earned Fabrice an Emmy nomination, and won accolades from National Geographic.

Residents of Sarhad-e-Broghil, a remote village in Afghanistan's Wakhan region.
Residents of Sarhad-e-Broghil, a remote village in Afghanistan's Wakhan region.
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A Round of Applause for the 2018 Grammy-nominated Kickstarter Creators

What do a reggae legend, a nine-piece vocal ensemble, a Cajun songwriter, and a MacArthur Genius all have in common? They’ve all funded Grammy-nominated albums on Kickstarter. These creators — Lee “Scratch” Perry, Roomful of Teeth, Jo-El Sonnier, and Miguel Zenón, respectively — are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kickstarter talent acknowledged by the Recording Academy.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a list of Kickstarter musicians, orchestras, and record labels that have racked up Grammy nods and even a few wins. With the 60th Annual Grammy Awards less than a week away— they air on CBS this Sunday, January 28 — join us in celebrating two Kickstarter creators up for golden gramophones this year.

(And tune in to a playlist featuring tunes by Grammy-nominated Kickstarter creators after the jump.)

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Our Latest Kickstarter Fellow: Fred Benenson


Fred Benenson was Kickstarter’s second employee and ran our data team before leaving in 2016 to explore new things. Today, we're happy to announce that he’s coming back for a bit as a Kickstarter Fellow

Fred’s wide-ranging curiosity about technology and culture has taken him down some surprising paths. In fact, before he joined Kickstarter, Fred was already a Kickstarter creator. Emoji Dick, his crowdsourced translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was the first emoji work to be added to the Library of Congress. More recently, he co-created Pitch Deck, a tabletop game that’s a great parody of startup mania. And Fred has three other Kickstarter projects under his belt, so he’s intimately familiar with creators’ needs. 

Over the next several months, Fred will be helping us build the next version of the Creator Dashboard, which is where creators go for data on a live project: its funding progress, the latest pledges, top referrals, and so forth. He’ll be looking at how we can give creators the insights they need to run the most effective campaigns and build their communities on Kickstarter. We’re looking forward to working with him again!

Welcoming Back Andy Baio as a Kickstarter Fellow

Today we’re excited to welcome Andy Baio back to Kickstarter. Andy’s a longtime member of the Kickstarter family. He advised us early on, helping us build Kickstarter before we even launched! And we even convinced him to serve as our very first CTO afterwards.

Andy’s a creator, full-stop. He embodies the spirit of independence that Kickstarter is proud to stand for, and he’s brought several great Kickstarter projects of his own to life over the years. “Kind of Bloop” was a chiptune jazz tribute to Miles Davis. More than 1,700 backers got behind his project to revive Upcoming — the events community Andy originally started many moons ago. And, most recently, he co-founded XOXO, an experimental festival celebrating independent artists who work on the internet.

This time around Andy’s joining us a Kickstarter Fellow. The Kickstarter Fellows idea is still taking shape, but it’s kinda like a visiting scholars program at a university — we identify really talented people whose work we admire and invite them in to collaborate with our team for a focused period of time. In the long term, we see the Fellows program as a great opportunity to work alongside extraordinary individuals who want to conspire with us to push our mission forward. But in the meantime we’re just excited to have a chance to work with Andy again. Please join us in welcoming him back. :)

Watch Hardware Studio Live from CES 2018

Sisyphus
Sisyphus


Kickstarter, Avnet, and Dragon Innovation are bringing Hardware Studio to CES in Las Vegas, January 9-12. 

The massive annual gathering tends to focus on the rollout of shiny new gadgets, but we wanted to do something a little different. We’ll be live streaming conversations with designers, engineers, and makers about how the innovative hardware products that CES celebrates get made, and sharing tips for how to make the manufacturing process less daunting.

The Hardware Studio booth will be a hub of activity. Stop by to see demos of Joto, a robotic drawing boardSisyphus, a meditative kinetic sculpture; and many other Kickstarter-funded inventions. You can also meet with experts from Avnet and Dragon Innovation, who will be holding office hours for hardware startups. Creators can sign up for these one-on-one sessions to ask questions and get advice about factory selection, sourcing, manufacturing, and much more. Sign up for a session here.

Throughout the show, we'll be hosting live-streamed chats with hardware creators about how they approached manufacturing and brought their projects to life. Read on for the full schedule — and head to Hardware.studio to tune in.

Joto
Joto

 

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The Best of Kickstarter Film in 2017

2017 has been a thrilling year for the Kickstarter Film team.

It began at the Sundance Film Festival, where Jennifer Brea’s Unrest won a major jury award, and ended with the theatrical release of Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully hand-painted feature film. In between, we saw Kickstarter-funded features, documentaries, and web series enter the world, changing and reinventing the way stories are told onscreen.

Here, we share some of our favorite moments from Kickstarter alumni filmmakers in 2017.

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Projects We Loved: 27 of Our Favorite Kickstarter-Funded Projects from 2017

Inside Pussy Riot, brought to life with the help of 971 backers in 2017.
Inside Pussy Riot, brought to life with the help of 971 backers in 2017.

2017 was a consequential year. For many people, it was a challenging year. But it was also a year in which people made art that amplified new and underrepresented voices, brought communities together, and engaged in important conversations. 

Kickstarter creators were an integral part of those conversations. This year, creators made work that dealt with vital issues like the global refugee crisis, mental health awareness, and the consequences of climate change. They imagined alternative futures and possibilities for our world, from a vision of Earth in which humans have merged with robots to an exhibition revealing the New York City skyline that never was. And they pushed their practices further through limited editions, commissioned pieces, and explorations of life and culture on our planet. Over 46,500 creators launched new and ambitious projects in 2017 — and over 4 million people supported them.

As a team, Kickstarter staffers have backed thousands of projects. So as the year comes to a close, we asked a few of our colleagues to share their favorite Kickstarter-funded works that became available to read, watch, explore, experience, purchase, and play in 2017. Some of these projects launched and subsequently entered culture earlier this year. Others came about after years of painstaking work, during which time creators gave their backers a behind-the-scenes peek at the process along the way. All were fascinating and inspiring for their originality and inventiveness.

Read on to discover our team’s favorites — and let us know yours in the comments.

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